The essays are well written and though they cover a period in time from the Meiji era (1868) to the early 1990's most of them are anchored around the 1930's to the 1950's. Dower is eclectic in his choice of subjects, everything from wartime anti-regime graffiti as collated by the Japanese security services to reflections on prime minister Yoshida who oversaw the last years of the American occupation to the return of a good deal of sovereignty to the Japanese. This includes the friction between the Japanese and the U.S. over re-arming Japan, which the Japanese were not keen on and the U.S. (in the context of their Cold War aims) were. Interestingly these frictions surfaced well before the Korean War which I have heard cited as the reason for the turn around in U.S. policy vis-a-vis Japanese re-arming.
A number of myths are soundly scotched such as the Japanese propaganda assertion of the "hundred million hearts beating as one" which transferred to the U.S. as the assertion that the Japanese were all alike, robotic and unthinkingly servile. There is also an interesting comparative study of U.S. and Japanese wartime propaganda films, and another essay looks at the continuity and disruptions between wartime and post-war Japanese administrations and their economic policies. The most heart rending essay covers Japanese artistic responses to the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki which is accompanied by reproductions of the art that Dower discusses.
Dower is even handed throughout the book, he aims to explain and contextualise the subjects he is writing about without degenerating into a blame game. Indeed, there is an interesting piece on how the Japanese and Americans viewed each other during the 1980's and early 90's to the background of the Japanese economic "miracle". Obviously things have changed a bit since then, and this tension between the two countries has been eclipsed by Japans lack lustre economic performance since, and the post 9/11 obsessions of the U.S.
I have no problems recommending this book for those who wish to understand the Japanese, particularly with a view to World War 2 and the subsequent post war period.